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Senior West Bank Hamas official to be charged with incitement, supporting terror

Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef has spent years in and out of Israeli jail, mostly under administrative detention; indictment comes as tensions rise between Israel, Hamas

Hassan Yousef speaks to the media after his release from an Israeli prison, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 19, 2014. (Majdi Mohammad/AP)
Hassan Yousef speaks to the media after his release from an Israeli prison, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 19, 2014. (Majdi Mohammad/AP)

Hamas co-founder Hassan Yousef will be charged in the coming days in an Israeli military court for incitement to terror and supporting a terror group, Israel Police said in a statement on Sunday.

Yousef, a senior figure in Hamas’s West Bank division, is seen as a relative moderate in the terror group’s apparatus. Since helping found the Hamas terror movement in the 1980s, Yousef has been arrested numerous times and spent years in Israeli prisons, much of it in administrative detention.

Israeli forces arrested Yousef in mid-December, one of dozens of Palestinians picked up in operations following a wave of terror attacks. In the announcement on Sunday, police tied Yousef’s arrest to a speech he gave following an attack by a Hamas member in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In mid-December, Hamas member Fadi Abu Shkhaydam opened fire on passersby near the Old City’s Chain Gate, killing an Israeli civilian, Eli Kay, before being shot dead. Yousef arrived at the Shkhaydam family’s mourning tent later to give a fiery speech.

“The suspect arrived at the mourning tent of the terrorist’s family who carried out the shooting attack, where he praised the terrorist’s actions and even conveyed the condolences of the Hamas movement to his family,” Israel Police said in a statement.

It was not clear what investigation police actually conducted over the past few weeks to clarify Yousef’s crimes, as he is an avowed member of the terror group who regularly speaks publicly on its behalf, including to The Times of Israel. The speech referenced by police was streamed on Facebook.

Fadi Abu Shkhaydam, the terrorist who killed an Israeli civilian and wounded four others in a shooting attack in East Jerusalem’s Old City on November 21, 2021. (Facebook)

“We will march forward, and there is no force in this land that can break our will,” Yousef said, telling Abu Shkhaydam’s family that he was there as the representative of Hamas’s leadership.

Hamas claims that Yousef is only active in its political wing, not its military wing, and has no direct involvement in terror operations. Both branches of the terror group avowedly seek to destroy Israel.

Tensions between Israel and Palestinian terror groups have heated up in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in recent weeks following a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis. Over a dozen attacks have taken place over the past two months, leaving two Israelis dead.

Gaza has also seen exchanges of fire. On Thursday, gunfire erupted from the enclave, wounding an Israeli civilian contractor. Israel responded by shelling Hamas positions near the border, wounding three Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials.

Two rockets fired from Gaza landed off the coast of Tel Aviv on Saturday morning, sending loud booms throughout Israel’s central cities. Israel responded by striking unmanned Hamas positions in the coastal enclave with fighter jets and artillery fire.

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